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Rangers get look at catching future

8/24/2014
Robinson Chirinos has emerged as a solid defensive catcher for the Rangers this season. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Officially, the Texas Rangers picked up $100,000 from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for catcher Geovany Soto on Sunday.

In reality, the Rangers obtained more. The move has given the team an opportunity to see who starts the 2015 season at catcher.

Soto was the projected 2014 starter, but injuries derailed those plans. The Rangers have used four different players at catcher, with Robinson Chirinos emerging as the most dependable with 74 starts, including Sunday’s 3-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

Before Monday night's game in Seattle, the Rangers will call up switch-hitting Tomas Telis from Triple-A Round Rock to back up Chirinos.

In 106 minor league games this season, Telis had a slash line of .318/.352/.431. Reports on the 23-year-old have been encouraging -- that’s why he’s headed to the bigs -- and though he won’t be the everyday man, he’s auditioning for 2015.

“He’s really taken a step forward with his game,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “[Minor league catching coordinator) Hector Ortiz and [assistant catching coordinator] Ryley Westman and all the staff did a great job with him getting him to this point. I want to take a look at both those guys, plus it gives Geo an opportunity to go out and win, and hopefully this situation benefits everybody.”

Meanwhile, you'll be able to see 21-year-old Jorge Alfaro, the Rangers' No. 1 catching prospect, at Double-A Frisco for a few more weeks.

He’s the future, as long as he progresses, but it’s just too soon for him.

At this stage of the season, Chirinos will be the first man Rangers manager Ron Washington writes down as his starter. If he does well, he can answer a few questions that Daniels and Washington have about the club.

“First of all, [Chirinos] wants to play and he wants to show you he can do it,” said first base coach Bengie Molina, who had 1,234 starts at catcher in a 13-year career. “He ain’t afraid, he doesn’t get rattled or anything. His skills, he can throw the ball, he’s got great hands, he blocks everything. Throws great, handles the pitching well. I don’t know, man, he surprised a lot of people.”

Chirinos, 30, is an infielder by trade and it’s those skills -- good lateral movement, quick hands -- that allowed him to become a strong catcher.

J.P. Arencibia and Soto were the projected catchers going into spring training this year. Soto's injury and Arencibia’s struggles at the plate gave Chirinos a chance on the big stage.

This season he’s hitting just .232, but he’s thrown out 40 percent of would-be base stealers, well above the league average.

“Every time I come to spring training, when I was playing minor leagues, I was getting myself the best chance to make the team,” said Chirinos, who made his major league debut in 2011 for Tampa Bay. “I was getting ready and with everything that happened this year, I have a chance to be the second guy in the beginning. I thank God I’ve been playing lot this year.”

Is he ready now?

Well, Sunday he looked like it, going 2-for-3 with a walk and an RBI. Telis will receive his opportunities, too, and as the Rangers try to erase this dismal 2014 season from their memory, there’s hope that its final five weeks will give them hope for 2015.